Jacksonville Jaguars rookie safety Ronnie Harrison made a surprise start last week against the Minnesota Vikings. The former Alabama star didn’t disappoint with his performance.
Harrison, a third-round pick out of Alabama this year, has been everything the coaching staff thought he would be – and then some. At 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, Harrison has adapted well to the Jaguars scheme and has played both sides of the field at strong and free safety.
The education or trial by fire last weekend resulted in Harrison leading the team with five tackles. Now, he must continue on the path toward earning more playing time with a secondary that is believed by many to be the best in the NFL.
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The Jaguars have been fortunate with the progression of first-round pick Taven Bryan, who has impressed Calais Campbell in his NFL education so far. Seventh-round linebacker Leon Jacobs appears to have locked up the open outside spot in the starting lineup.
These three players will be part of this team’s future moving forward. Add the 2016 Draft class of Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue and this defense figures to be good for the next half century or more.
Last Saturday’s performance could have been a sample of what to expect from Harrison this season and next when he could be a starter rather than a reserve.
"“He went out there, had good hits, jarred the ball loose and played extremely well,” head coach Doug Marrone said via First Coast News. “It was probably everything we were looking for when we drafted him. Is there room to improve?“Of course, there is. There always is. But I thought he did a nice job from how he handled himself, calls, what he was doing. He did a good job.”"
Harrison and Bryan were luxury picks, but they serve a purpose. Jacobs is a gem. The Jaguars will have decisions to make this offseason with veterans who will cost the team more than they may be willing to pay.
Pushing these players to learn as much as possible in training camp will pay off sooner rather than later.
With two games left in the preseason – Atlanta this Saturday and Tampa Bay next week, Harrison and his teammates figure to get plenty more on-field experience. While the starters on defense are very good, adding depth to a solid core should prove invaluable.